The Essential Hori Hori Knife

By Amy Grant | February 22, 2021
Image by Amy Grant
by Amy Grant
February 22, 2021

Every gardener has one tool that for whatever reason they cannot live without. I have a few tools that fall under that description, but my number one is my hori hori

Never heard of a hori hori? Well let me regale you please! A hori hori also termed a “soil knife” or “weeding knife” is a heavy duty steel serrated blade for digging, cutting and more. The blade is sharp on both sides and tapers to a point at the end. 

Hori Hori Knife Facts

There are a few different incarnations of a hori hori knife, but all are more or less described as above. They can replace other garden tools so when you go out into your garden to work you only need to take a single tool rather than a basketful. The length is anywhere between 11-15 inches (28-38 cm) in length depending on the size of the handle and often comes with a handy scabbard to keep the tool sharp and protected. 

The word “hori” means “to dig” in Japanese and hori hori is onomatopoeia for the sound of digging. Japanese in origin, the hori hori was first used to carefully dig up mountainous Sansai plants, thus leading it to be referred to as “Sansai knife.” The hori hori is also sometimes called “leisure knife” in Japan, and boy does it really make tough gardening chores a pleasure. 

My hori hori also has a ruled blade that helps me determine the correct depth for say bulbs. It can saw through small branches and larger roots. I use it to loosen root bound plant systems and to help me get that poor root bound plant out of its pot. I use the pointed tip to remove weeds from between pavers where before I used a butter knife (Full disclosure: I still use a butter knife sometimes). 

My partner used it to dig trenches to work on some minor irrigation repair. I have used it to cut trimmer line, twine, and other types of line. The sturdy handle is great to pound in stakes. My hori hori will cut sod and is indispensable for dividing perennials

All in all a hori hori, while not totally replacing other garden tools, is a wonderful multi-use tool for the garden or most any outdoor activity. We like ours so much we fought over it until we got smart and got a second one!

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